Can Directors Lose Their Touch?
A little while ago, I wrote an article about the role of the director. I mentioned in that article that I have a difficult time telling where the role of the director starts and ends, and how much of a say or impact the rest of the crew (actors, producers, etc.) have on the resulting film. From what I can tell, the director is often the one who receives the credit for a successful film. The fact is that directing is a complete mystery to me. As far as I can tell, directors often stick to their own genre, or own style, or own type of storytelling. It’s something that they’re good at or that they know, and makes the films worthwhile (usually).
I know very little about directing, but I do know a thing or two about the creative process. And one of the things I can attest to is that it’s an incredibly harsh mistress. Ideas that you think are great and have a good deal of potential look drab and unlikely the next day. Stories that start strong can suddenly veer off and get away from you, or take you through unexpected twists and turns. But that’s from a storytelling perspective. Is that something that concerns the director?
I keep thinking of these directors that just keep creating hit after hit with little to no flops, while other directors succeed and then somehow drop off the face of the earth after one bad turn. Look at someone like Steven Spielberg. That guy makes movies like nobody’s business. Even his flops aren’t really flops, and if they do flop, then they are as far from being his fault as possible. It becomes about how the story was wrong, or the actor wasn’t right. Nobody comes out and says “Spielberg made a terrible film”. With a movie credit score like he has, it’s no wonder. The man has done more than prove himself. The same goes for Clint Eastwood. Sure, you have your good films and your weaker films, but you still manage to maintain that reputation as a “good” director.
But what about the directors that seem to fall out of good graces with the audiences with only one film? Take Don Bluth for example. We all loved his animated films like An American Tale, The Land Before Time, Anastasia, and even The Secret of NIMH. He was an animation machine, churning out a new family classic every few years like clockwork. Then came his film Titan A.E., a sci-fi story featuring the voice work of Matt Damon and Nathan Lane. Unfortunately for Mr. Bluth, the film completely bombed, and he lost a good deal of money in the process. Since then, he has done little directing and even less producing. After making so many great films, how can such an obviously talented director be taken down by one poor film?
Cameron Crowe is another example that comes to mind. After successes like Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous (both of which were Oscar-heavy), he made Elizabethtown. It wasn’t exceptionally popular among filmgoers, and shortly thereafter, Crowe disappeared. It wasn’t until six years later that he made We Bought a Zoo, released in 2011. He has yet to make another film (but is apparently working on something now). Was the disappointment of Elizabethtown enough to deter him from making films? Why come back only to disappear again?
While being a director is not something I fully understand, I do understand that Hollywood can be a dangerous and volatile place for those who are not producing and performing the way they should. There’s always someone waiting to take your job right behind you. There are some you would think might be deserving of more leniency than others, but clearly this is not always the case. But with how much responsibility is placed on the directors and how many millions of dollars are often on the line, it’s no surprise that very few get second chances.